Buy a Field: on normal in the midst of crisis

misty field

“See how the siege ramps have been built against the city walls!…And yet, O Sovereign Lord, you have told me to buy the field – paying good money for it…”

Jeremiah 32:24-25

God’s instructions often seem incongruous to me

Joshua 6: Battle plan: March around Jericho seven times, blow trumpets, and yell.

2 Chronicles 20: Go outside the fortified city and stand still before the three nations who wait to destroy you.

Jeremiah 32: Buy a field in a city that’s currently under siege, right before the country changes possession, and also while you’re in prison and can’t even use it.

It’s not the advice wizened, experienced men would have given. But Jericho fell, three armies lay slaughtered, and Babylon didn’t last forever. So it was good that young men, not sure how to proceed, asked the Lord and listened.


Nothing is too hard for you

Jeremiah’s response in his situation made me laugh, it was so relatable: Okay, Lord, I paid GOOD MONEY for this, I am TRYING to believe you and feel good about this decision, but I’m mighty uncomfortable…do you see the siege ramps?! Do you not recognize where this is headed?

It looked like a waste of money in an unstable time when Jeremiah really might need it. If there’s anything he didn’t need from his prison cell in the middle of a city under siege, it was a field. But God told him to buy it, so he ran to a promise:

“O Sovereign Lord! You made heaven and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you!”  (verse 17)

and God echoed it:

“I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?…Fields will again be bought and sold in this land…” (verse 27, 43)

Buying land meant taking God at his word that even though the city was burning right now,  He would restore Jerusalem, and it would be worth having the field when the time came.


I might need to do something normal

Sometimes, it’s not even that an investment has such an incredible return down the road, but that the act of investing in God’s promises does my heart good here and now, especially when things feel out-of-control, unstable, under siege.

Perhaps that is when it’s most important to bank on the fact that He keeps his promises, and that nothing is too hard for Him. Perhaps that is when I most need to do something normal.

To read a story, shop for groceries, take a nap, go on a walk, even at incongruous times. To stop and have a conversation, to pick a flower, to watch a sunset, to buy a field.

Sometimes, small actions like that are actually really big.

Because setting aside the weight of the world to just do the next small thing He asks of me means choosing that I believe He will take care of me. And when I decide that I just can’t believe that right now, my moments and my days and my sunsets are stolen away and I am left desperate, distracted, and spread thin until the crisis wanes.

But I can choose instead to carry on as if things will be okay, even when they look like they won’t be. Even when there are siege ramps.

Maybe that’s why it’s so significant that Jesus napped in a storm-tossed boat.

Perhaps it’s okay to be unsure how to proceed; to just ask Him and do what’s next, even if that looks foolish to a world that obsesses over the news, works 70-hour weeks, plans precise futures, and claws after the power to bring them about.

A world that lives in constant terror of a crisis or a Savior who offers rest in the midst of it. Whom will I follow?


A deep breath & a prayer

Oh Lord-

Always you are offering a life free of worry, if I will only trust you enough to enjoy it.

Banking on your faithfulness is always a good investment. So help me, when the siege ladders go up, to take a deep breath, close my eyes, lean into you, and buy a field.  Help me to make my decisions based on your steady promises of what will be, not based on fear and worry and what-if’s.

I’m tired of constantly reacting to the thousand emergencies that fall across my path, scrambling this way and that to hoard security in whatever way I can. That is no way to live.

You have given  me the ability to walk calmly through hard situations, eyes ahead, certain that nothing is too hard for you; not even this.  So Lord, show me how to hear you and step into that, to see a crisis and do something normal, to see a city falling, and obey you when you say to buy a field.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33


Related Reading

On Dread & Distance: Biblical Guidelines for how to Respond to the Coronavirus Pandemic

5 Steps to a Light Heart in a Season Heavy with Coronavirus Concerns

pit-7
Rags, not Rope: on kindness in crisis

Exiled: on settling in places we don’t like

misty pine trees

This is what the Lord…says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon…

Build homes and plan to stay. Plant gardens and eat the food they produce…You will be in Babylon for 70 years. But then I will do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.”

Jeremiah 29:4-5, 10

 

This passage, titled “A letter to the Exiles” held a promise that the Israelites would come back home. But it also gave the instruction to make a home where they were.

God knew they would pine for Jerusalem, but didn’t want them to hold themselves back, contained and disconnected in Babylon. They had been forced there and that was bound to come with some baggage, but they were going to live there for SEVENTY years! They needed permission to make some peace with that and settle.

It is not good for human beings to try to remain portable and ready to pick up and move for seventy years. It is hard on us when we’re transplanted, but it is even harder when we refuse to put roots down in our new soil.

And so God challenged them to settle in the place they were, while still holding before them hope of the place they were meant for.

They didn’t have to give up on Jerusalem, it was going to happen, they were going to come back home and be restored and rescued and be close with their God again. But it wasn’t going to happen for a long time, so He gave them some short-term things to work toward, too: gardens, homes, marriage, kids, grandkids. He gave them things to enjoy while they waited and told them to pray for the land they were in, not just the land they were looking forward to.

The other day, a friend and I were discussing difficult seasons where you are not where you want to be yet, or maybe not where you want to be at all, and how you can spend the whole time just waiting for the next move. Sometimes a new season can feel like an arranged marriage, and the heart needs time to learn to love. It’s good to give ourselves that time, but also necessary to give our hearts permission.

I’ve struggled in Spokane for a long time, struggled with all the things I didn’t like and all that I didn’t understand about what was next. I struggled moving from the Sunshine State to a place where it gets dark at 3:30 in the afternoon and where winter reigns far past it’s welcome. But this year, I’m planting a garden. I set up a waterfall in my yard. I went hiking and saw a moose. I’m noticing the mist in the pine trees.

We’re leaving in 9 months. And yet, I don’t feel like I will lose what I have finally invested. I don’t have to hold it back, for it will be beauty I have thoroughly enjoyed that I can pass on to the next person who comes to call this space home. As I settle in and forge new routines and cultivate beauty, I find those efforts so much more refreshing and worthwhile than I expected. It’s not because the results will last forever, but because they help me rest, enjoy, and be where I am, even as I look forward. It is okay for me to know I will move on to a new home, and still decide to make it home where I am right now.

I am not only on my way to somewhere.

I am here.

 

Lord-

Help me to give the timeline to you and breathe out and breathe in and look around and call this home and thank you for it.

Help me to do this instead of growing frustrated as I pine for a place that may happen someday, but where I cannot be now – as I strain for how I’d like things to be, but constantly face my inability to control what is – as I lean forward toward who I want to be, but cannot speed up the progress.

When I decide firmly to believe what you have to say, it is such a relief from all the stress I carry. And daily you beckon me to the cross, to lay it down again and remember that I don’t have to be someone I’m not, I don’t have to be somewhere I’m not. You have only asked me to come to you and be right here. You have designed me to need breaks, to need roots, to need rest, to need you. And those needs come with your permission, those needs lead to the beautiful.

It is a sweet gift to have permission to rest, to know I am allowed to be here and this is allowed to be home. Help me not to miss it.

 

For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God.[a] For only we who believe can enter his rest…this rest has been ready since he made the world…So there is a special rest[f] still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. 11 So let us do our best to enter that rest…

Hebrews 4:2, 3, 9-11

 

Palaces

Mysore Palace, India

“But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king!”

Jeremiah 22:15

 

A leader can make himself look like a great king, or he can choose to be one, no matter how that looks.

King Josiah had helped the poor and needy. King Jehoiakim used them to erect a palace of cedar.

Jehoiakim did what was best for himself, and abused others to meet his own needs. Josiah did what was right, and all his needs were met.

“‘That is why God blessed him. He gave justice and help to the poor and needy and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know me?’ says the Lord.” 

Jeremiah 22:16

A leader that knows the Lord chooses to do what’s right, uses his power fairly and gives his resources to care for those who need help. A leader who walks before his God knows that this is what pleases Him. The security of the kingdom against enemies, the needs of the palace, his own welfare…those are all things the Lord can handle, things the king cannot ensure by his own means anyway.

But God would have leaders turn their attention to the ones who depend on them for justice and could benefit from what power they do have, rather than obsess over the things they cannot control. And all would be well.

It is easy to become consumed with ourselves and our needs and our worries and devote all our time to a well-fortified, shiny outside.

But cedar palaces do not make great kings.

When we prioritize how we look, we often sacrifice who we are. We build a veneer that suffocates the life on the inside.

And I would rather be a good person than look like an impressive one.

I would rather hand over all that is too much for me to my God and just see to those areas where I do have the power to make a difference. I would rather relax, knowing I do not have to impress everyone else. I am free to just walk before Him. He handles all my needs, so that I can set my focus on others. And All will be well.

I do not have to chase after the things the world prizes. He is the highest prize.

I am not a king, but the choice is mine all the same. Will I build up palaces or people?

 

Lord-

Make me brave to live as Josiah did, to serve you as a daily routine.

To “eat and drink and do justice and righteousness.” (Jeremiah 22:15)

Teach me to prioritize doing what’s right, not just what is best for me; to decide to please you, not just to please myself; to care for others because I know that I am cared for.

Help me to know what it is to know you, Lord.

And thank you for the freedom and transformation that brings. Because knowing you creates life on the inside, even if the outside isn’t so shiny.